Fikile Mbalula says government jumped gun in R34bn Moloto Rail Corridor
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Pretoria - The government should have not announced the Moloto Rail Corridor project, projected to cost R34 billion and said to create jobs and add 15 train stations between Mpumalanga and Tshwane until there was a concrete agreement between National Treasury and the Department of Transport.
Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula said this when he joined his counterpart in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele at the Union Buildings after being forced by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to finally accept a memorandum from representatives of three Mpumalanga municipalities who have been camping outside the Union Buildings since September last year.
They have been there to demand implementation of the promised improvements meant to save lives and bring much-needed economic upliftment and developments.
Representatives from the KwaNdebele kingdom endorsed the group, known as the Moloto Corridor Concerned Residents, who represented the people from the Thembisile Hani, Dr JS Moroka, and Elias Motsoaledi municipalities. The organisation said they were tired of living along the deadly R573 Moloto Road, the unreliable Putco bus service, road infrastructure and the mode of transport that did not attract investment into the province.
Speaking about the project, which is described on the website of the Passenger Railway Agency of SA (Prasa), Mbalula said the project actually collapsed at a point where the feasibility study proved to be something National Treasury could agree with, but he said there were already plans in motion to revive the idea of the Moloto Rail Corridor.
"We are working with the National Treasury and all other parties to revive the Moloto Rail Corridor idea. We will go to KwaMhlanga and give a proper report. The public protector already has our report.
"We have intervened and finalised the Moloto Corridor project in terms of road construction under the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral). The Gauteng government surrendered that part of R573 to us, and we are now in the process of road expansion and construction. The part that belongs to Limpopo on the Mpumalanga side is almost finalised.“
He said the department would go to Mpumalanga to address the matters the people were talking about, and to also give them the roadmap of how they hope to revive the Moloto Rail Corridor vision.
He said the project was delayed because rail corridors cost a lot of money, so there had to be serious discussions about the funding model, which examined where the money would come from.
"The point is, the government dealt with the matter, but unfortunately there was no agreement at the level of Cabinet between the Department of Transport and National Treasury. Treasury are the only people in this country who can make a determination whether or not certain projects can actually be funded. In this instance we are working with them to revive the idea."
Gungubele said the Presidency would also be represented when it was time to go and address the issue in Mpumalanga.
He said unfortunately, the economy was bad and so many things that could have been, had not, not just in the South Africa but the world as a whole.
Sam Masango, who leads and convenes the people, said Mpumalanga was proud that the public protector had assisted to force the government to come to accept a memorandum from the poor.
"This tells us that in the string of government, people must use the Chapter 9 institution to force deployees of government to come and accept a memorandum from the people. From their side they would have not come. They are just doing a courtesy.
“We no longer trust that they will implement this project. They will only implement a project if it involves white people and can see that their investors will be affected."
Masango said without this project, the people of Mpumalanga would continue to languish in poverty because investors could not invest in a province that did not have a good transportation infrastructure and mode of transportation, especially because the Moloto Road continued to kill people.
The group said they would abandon camp for now and return home to report the acceptance of the memorandum, and prepare for the visit by government officials.